WinterWonderGrass CO 2016
Festival Experience Archive
for The Lot Scene by Parker
Paul Hoffman - The Dustbowl Revival - Greensky Bluegrass
And so we’d all made it to the last day of the festival. Good on us, every one. Still, there was so much music left as the hours counted down to the end. Thank goodness we could stave off the inevitable with heaps more entertainment and merriment. Heaps, I tell you. Heaps. So, let’s get to it shall well? We shall…
Our first musical offering of the day was Mr. Paul Hoffman of Greensky Bluegrass performing a solo set on the Soap Box Stage. And on guitar, too! Always cool to see a musician’s breadth in a live format. As you might expect, his repertoire for the set consisted primarily of GSBG songs. And we all just loved that fact. All of us, as in the tons and tons of folks crammed into the tent for this show. And could you blame us? “Reverend” was his first choice for the day, immediately showcasing both his guitar skills and that magnificent voice of his. Instant crowd-pleaser. He was in very fine voice and form to be sure making us all anxious to hear what he’d play next. Which turned out to be “Merely Avoiding” as it were. Boy, can this man croon and sing! So much organic and gentle fervor and heart supported by a considerable power beneath. And he was certainly going for it, too. We managed, even in those crowded conditions, to grab a video of part of Paul’s performance — presenting to you “Beauty and Pain”. Hope you enjoy!
Riveting, no? Wow. Just wow. This man certainly knows his craft very well. And shares it so freely with his audiences…much to our gratitude of course. That strange, dark, and catchy cautionary tale “What Happened to Jim” followed “Beauty and Pain”. As ever it was weird and weirdly wonderful and a huge hit with the crowded tent folk. Interesting to hear these songs a la balladeer style with such a focused texture. Really made the lyrics stand out for one thing. Also made Paul’s voice stand out that much more as well. Great to have the opportunity to experience both at once. Then it was time for a soulful and sorrowful selection in the form of “Lose My Way”. You could really hear the sadness and wistfulness written into the lyrics emanating from that small stage. A brand new song was next in line for us, I am happy to report. “While We’re Waiting” is a sweet one which, no doubt, will become a strong addition to the GSBG catalogue. Really liked this one — it has, for lack of a better way of putting it, a rather pretty chorus. Gorgeous stuff. Thanks, Phoff!! He played us a mighty fine “Fixin’ to Ruin” next followed by his set closer, “Someone Will”. While some of the lyrics of this one might seem lighthearted don't let that fool you: there is some serious humanity going on in this song. And Paul told the story with such aplomb. What a bomb ass set!! Truly. It was excellent on so many levels and a testament to the overall musicality of Paul Hoffman. Bravo, Phoff, and my thanks for a truly special time!
The Dustbowl Revival took the main stage by storm on Sunday afternoon, the large eight-member ensemble commanding quite the presence up there in front of us. This was my first time seeing them live and so I was pumped at the opportunity. Unfortunately, I missed some parts of their set and so will report on what I heard for it needs to be told. The Dustbowl Revival are energy personified. They bring so much of it to the stage both personally and musically and it makes for an intensely gratifying performance. We entered on “John the Revelator” which was a stupendously horn-laden New Orleans-style wall of sound pouring down over the crowd. Really got into Zach Lupetin’s voice from the very get to. He definitely brings a lot to the table when it comes to both musicianship and showmanship. And those horns! I’m very much into horn sections, especially when used to their utmost potential as with Dustbowl. They really help to evoke a particular sound or genre, in this case one of The Big Easy. I could’ve listened to it all day long. “Cherokee Shuffle” came next down the line and we managed to capture it for you to watch right this minute:
Worth it? You bet it was worth it! I was definitely learning to love Liz Beebe’s voice, too. Some really fine harmonies between those two. So far so awesome. Truly. I couldn’t discern the name of the next song, but it was a lively number filled with a positive message. “Let the ocean waters flow from my eyes, at least I’ll be smiling on the day that I die.” Great fiddle in this one from Conor Vance — really interesting timbres to put together, fiddle and horns. But it works really well in the Dustbowl setting. Extremely well in fact. Big shout out to Matt Rubin (trumpet) and Ulf Bjorlin (trombone) for holding down that horn section all set. Massively great stuff there, fellows, bravi. Some Johnny Cash came our way next as the familiar strains of “Folsom Prison Blues” rang out into the afternoon air above the fest. A nice rocked up version, this one sped along as the massive texture of these many assembled instruments let loose in harmonic accord. What a powerhouse of energy, this band! And they brought it 100% to each and every song. Impressive to say the very least. And entertainingly fun in all regards. Later on down the set they gave us a sassy and soulful “Midnight Special” which is a perfect cover for this band. With a slower, almost parade-like pace, this one set a superb striding shuffle for all of us to sway to…which we did. As well as took the opportunity to sing along. Sad that I missed so much of their set but grateful for what I got to see, I knew that I’d be looking very much forward to my next Dustbowl Revival show. I definitely was thankful for my first experience with them, no doubt about it.
And just like that it was time for another healthy helping of those boys from Kalamazoo, Greensky Bluegrass. After the showing on Saturday night, Sunday promised to be just as good if not better. Never miss a Sunday show, right? You damn right. They opened with a song Paul Hoffman had played earlier and told us just might pop up again that day. Well, he was right, of course, and they lit into “Fixin’ to Ruin” with that iconic GSBG sound instantly in play. It was cool to have heard Paul play this solo and then, with that so fresh in my mind, hear the group play it on the main stage. It’s almost like a different song altogether with so many extra moving parts. Nothing like the introduction of the dobro the change the timbre of a song completely. Completely for the better, too, if you ask me. And, of course, Anders Beck treated us all to some tasty, tasty dobro licks and kicks throughout the song. Mike Bont traded off some lines with him, banjo to dobro and back again. Really great stuff. Mike Devol’s bass solo was appropriately funky as he rather artfully took over the reigns of the melody for a few measures. What a great start already…only one song in and the momentum was building. This was going to be a special show. “Jaywalking” came next and opened with its familiar vocal harmonies giving way to Anders with his big dobro intro. Anders continued to jam his riffs along to the end of the song, making his instrument sing contrapuntally to the vocal lines. Another one nailed to the wall by Greensky. And now it’s time for another show and tell. This time, we have some great footage of “Windshield” for you to immerse yourself in. Hope you dig it, friends!
Pretty haunting, no? That one certainly made a lot of people in the crowd very happy. It is a big favorite after all. Dave Bruzza was up to the mic next for “Take Cover” which followed “Windshield”. Great, rolling upward moving energy with this song. One that got the blood and body moving. Traffic’s “Light Up or Leave Me Alone” came after, a personal favorite of mine. Both the original and this cover version. Bruzza had a blistering solo on guitar which led right into Bont answering with one of his very own. This song is most certainly big on the jams, good jams, great jams. Badass jams. Never mind that they took this directly into Phish’s “Tweezer Reprise” and back out again. Never mind that it seemed like hours long. Never mind how amazing it was…no wait, mind all that stuff!! It was all so worth the minding!! The sweet but sad “In Control” was up afterwards with Paul taking the mic once again, singing so serenely to every ear in the audience. Nothing like when a particular song showcases a voice or instrument in such a profound way as this. A powerful part of their repertoire. “Letter to Seymour” followed “In Control” and quickened the pace once again with some hard drivin’, fast pickin’. Bruzza motored along just as fast as the instruments with his vocals, leading this one straight into fabulous freneticism. What astounding energy! The subsequent “Fo Sho Uh Huh” brought its usual wackiness to the table replete with some “Easy Like Sunday Morning” teases. Oh, that band. What won’t they sing? Love it. A bit later in the set we got an almost inconceivable surprise guest spot on the Greensky stage. During “Broke Mountain Breakdown” none other than DJ Logic joined the boys on his turntables for a bit of mayhem, DJ-style. The band were all ripping the top off the tune and then Logic is there scratching away like a rhythm section and kicking some serious ass in the process? Unreal. Never thought I’d see the day. DJ Logic just killed it, too. Damn, did he ever. Really speedy, funky, fresh jams from the GSBG lads, as well — they really held the line against Logic’s beats throwing down a joint collaboration of truly epic proportions. Bont’s big, bold solo along with Logic was rather special. Long and lovely and very well done. This whole affair was just so damn awesome. What a fantabulous surprise!! Anders even threw in some “Another One Bites the Dust” teases. Damn, son! So very good!! They took this directly into “What is a Booty?” and right back into finish up the “Breakdown”. What a thrill ride, my friends!! I mean, DJ-effing-Logic!?!?!? Yeah, all of it’s true. And all of it was totally radical. A very tricky and lengthy and believable “Eyes of the World” tease started things off for the closer of the evening: “Don’t Lie”. Those pranksters. A crowd pleaser of some stature everyone seemed very happy to get this selection for our last song of the set. And the gentlemen all sounded pretty damn perfect, it must be said. Man, do they have some stamina to make it to the end of such a huge show with so much energy left. Some heavy Bont action in this song on his banjo friend not to mention a similar vibe on mando from Paul and on guitar from Bruzza. Silly good jam in the mid section of “Don’t Lie” with Anders just wailing away on his dobro for all the world to hear. Thankfully. Just some consummately wonderful music happening. Finally, encore time it was and Ween was the choice du jour it would seem. This was apparently a GSBG debut as well: “Your Party”. Pretty cool stuff. Always great to get a debut and an interesting one such as this cover. A helluva way to end things for the main stage portion of WinterWonderGrass 2016. A truly magnificent set from a truly magnificent band. What a treat the past two nights had been with them. They bring so much to the musical table and we take so much away. So much positivity and joy. So much happiness. What a remarkable group! Thank you fellas for a couple of incredible evenings of music. Until we meet again. Hopefully soon…
Sadly, then, the lights were turned up and everyone began that oh-so-familiar shuffle to the gates. The one that is easily recognizable as the last of the weekend for, once we were out, we were out for another year. However, a year is so little to wait for such a valuable and valued experience as WWG. Scotty and all the other folks who put on this wonderful fest most surely know what they are doing and they do it very well year after year. In fact, if anything, this year was markedly better than last year and only because they had added things to improve upon something which was already amazing. My hat goes off to everyone involved with WonderGrass CO this year — a better-oiled festy machine I know not of. Smiles of gratitude and waves of thanks basking in all the magical memories from four days of musical marvel. And only 11.25 months to go until WinterWonderGrass 2017!! We can make it, folks. I have faith in us. Thanks for reading along, everyone. I hope you enjoyed the journey as much as I enjoyed spinning it out for you!! Until next time…